Archive for the 'Idaho' Category

Dec 20 2014

Cows without guns

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Idaho

In England, when the Guardian newspaper wrote last week about the great Pocatello cow escape, they tagged the breakout bovines the “Slaughterhouse five.”

British newspapers have a gift, don’t they?

But the first of the animals to break out, a heifer, sounded as if she had been inspired instead by the Dana Lyons song “Cows with Guns.” (“We will fight for bovine freedom/And hold our large heads high . . .”)

On December 12 she jumped a six-foot fence at Anderson Custom Pack and roared into a rampage, running through Pocatello’s north end, butting an animal control vehicle and two police cars. Finally, police shot and killed her. She may have been unarmed but, in truth, becoming dangerous and the stakes were high. (Sorry.)

Two days later four other cows, slated for the slaughter, went missing. Anderson spokesmen said they thought someone had let them loose; there’s not yet been an official determination on that one way or the other. However the escape happened, the animals were soon roaming around town. One of them was captured, and one was shot.

The other two evidently, at this writing, remain at large.

Here’s a problem, because a lot of people may be conflicted.

We don’t want cows roaming our streets, even cows that don’t ram motor vehicles. And a lot of us enjoy our beef (I do), even if we don’t try to devote a lot of thought about how it transitions from live animal to our plates. Yes, if we want our beef there will be slaughterhouses.

At the same time, most people love a good escape story. From “The Great Escape” to “Prison Break” most of us root for the people inside to get out, even if (as in “Prison Break”) some of them really are bad guys. And animals too (think about all those movies featuring an animal caged). We root for freedom, not for captivity. It’s hard not to cheer for the cows.

A few days after the second breakout, with two bovines still out there somewhere, the Farm Sanctuary group called in, and offered to find and take the animals back to their 300 acres at Orland, California, where they would be left to graze for the rest of their natural lives. Continue Reading »

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Dec 13 2014

Some learning curve advice

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In about three weeks new administrations will take over in two important Idaho offices – superintendent of public instruction and secretary of state. That means, or should mean, the incoming officials in those places will be busy right now getting prepared.

Offered for consideration a little advice, from an observer of transitions, for Idaho’s new statewide officials, SUPI Sherri Ybarra and Secretary Lawerence Denney.

1. Apart from maybe one or two personal advisors, keep the existing staff in place, for a while at least. Yes, you will have authority to replace them wholesale if you choose, and as you eventually find (as you will) people who ought to go, they can be shown the door. But for the moment, remember that they, not you, know how things work in this place, and by that I mean all the little bits and pieces which make these offices tick; both the formal procedures (and requirements) and the informal methods and pathways that help work get handled. In any office, governmental or not, these things take a while to suss out. You’re going to have a learning curve. Accept that and let your staff, which mostly will probably be eager to help inform you, guide you through the early steps.

No one coming in fresh from the outside will understand enough of that at first. But both state offices are empowered and restricted by a mass of laws, rules, legal decisions and more. Former Superintendent Jerry Evans, who probably understood the SUPI world better than anyone in recent decades, had a gift for explaining the inner workings of “the coalition” and “the formula” – central to the office’s operations – in startlingly clear fashion to people like legislators and reporters. But so complex was his subject that many people (such as me) could not maintain comprehension of it for more than a day or so; after that we’d have to go back for a refresher. The details of this stuff are more complex than they look from the outside. Respect that.

2. Spend as much time as you can in the office. Get a sense of the patterns, personalities and rhythms there before you have to run it yourself.

3. Find a few old hands and, if not bring them into the office, turn them into a kitchen cabinet, an advisory group. Collect some expertise you can trust, and some people who aren’t your natural allies so you’re not just entering an echo chamber, telling you what you want to hear. And then make use of what you hear. Continue Reading »

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Dec 06 2014

For long term

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Idaho

The predominant news out of the just-finished organizational session of the Idaho Legislature didn’t make the front page of most Idaho papers, and that was a reasonable call.

There were a few committee changes, and a few on the lower rungs of leadership. But the top spots in the Senate and House stayed pretty much the same.

In the bigger picture of Idaho legislative history, there actually is some news in this stasis. Until the last decade or a little more, leadership under the rotunda tended to change regularly. In recent years, that’s slowed down.

In the Senate, the top leadership job is president pro tem. (You might think that would be lieutenant governor, since he’s the default presiding officer, but when caucuses are held and decisions are made the lieutenant governor is outside of the room, with the rest of us.) For most of Idaho history, the norm was to hold that job for two or three terms, provided your party was in control. The first ever to keep the job longer was Republican James Ellsworth of Leadore, for four terms from 1968-76.

That record was broken by Robert Geddes of Soda Springs, who was elected to the post in 2000 (mid-session, when Jerry Twiggs, who was in his fourth term as pro tem, died). Geddes held the job for 10 years, and currently holds the record. His replacement, Brent Hill, was elected to it for the third time last week, and there’s no particular reason he won’t reach Geddes’ mark over time.

In the House, no one broke the three-term ceiling until Bruce Newcomb, who was elected speaker in 1998 and stayed until he retired in 2006 – four terms. His successor, Lawerence Denney of Midvale (soon to be secretary of state), then was speaker for three terms but narrowly (apparently) lost a bid for a fourth in 2012. The man who defeated him, Scott Bedke of Oakley, appears like Hill, to be settling in. Neither he nor Hill were opposed for the top leadership positions in the organizational session.

Take a look at the job of majority leader in each chamber. In the Senate, Bart Davis of Idaho Falls has held that job 12 years. In the House, Mike Moyle of Star has been majority leader since 2006, but he was assistant majority leader in 2002 – 14 years so far in one position or the other.

Before you consider this a call for term limits, though, consider that longevity is much less widespread in the overall legislative ranks. Just nine of the 35 senators, for example, are entering their fifth term or better. Despite the fact that nearly all legislative districts are a lock for one political party or the other (mostly for one of them, of course), there’s a good deal of turnover among them. Continue Reading »

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Nov 29 2014

Count and recount

Published by under Idaho

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Idaho

For most politicians, Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks that at least the stress of vote-counting, whether for results happy or sad, has long been over.

Each time around, though, a few can’t count themselves quite so fortunate. In a legislative district around Lewiston, in the closest Idaho legislative contest of the year, candidates Dan Rudolph (Democrat) and Thyra Stevenson (incumbent Republican) had to wait until this week to conclude their tight, tense contest. The unofficial returns showed Rudolph ahead by 26 votes out of the 12,434 cast for the two candidates overall. Stevenson paid for recounting 33 precincts in Nez Perce County, which she lost; she did not seek a recount for smaller Lewis County, where she won. In the end she picked up one additional vote, not nearly enough.

In so close a result a recount seems understandable; a few small counting errors could tip a result. Recounts rarely change the outcome for trailing candidates, though, and not everyone who might seek a recount does. In the other Lewiston-area House district, incumbent Democrat John Rusche led by just 48 votes, but his Republican challenger, Mike Kingsley, decided to accept that number.

Not many elections run so close as to draw the prospect of recounts. The biggest recount effort this year in the Northwest actually is a ballot issue, not a contest of candidates. In Oregon, ballot measure 92 concerns whether certain genetically modified foods should be labeled. On election night, the vote was not especially close with the “nos” leading by more than 10,000 votes. But in vote-by-mail Oregon, ballots have been coming in and have been rechecked for three weeks. Many of the late votes tend to come from liberal Multnomah County, so the “no” margin has dropped daily, and last week stood at just 809 votes – out of about 1.5 million cast. The recount there will be automatic.

In spite of that remarkable gain of votes by the “yes” forces, the prevailing view is that “no” will still win. Simply, once all the votes are accounted for, very few changes ordinarily appear afterward.

Idaho has had a number of legislative race recounts over the years, but I can’t think of one (maybe you can – if so let me know) that changed the outcome. More often, they slightly increase the margin held by the unofficial leader.

Boise District 18 in 2010 saw Republican Julie Ellsworth defeating Democrat Janie Ward-Engelking by just nine votes, or less than .1 of a percent. Ward-Engelking (who now is a state senator and this year won election easily) asked for a recount, and she gained a single vote, so she still lost that race. Ellsworth remained the winner, by eight votes. In 2004, another Boise district (17) also saw a Republican win by nine votes; there, a recount slightly padded that lead.

Not all recounts are futile, however, as anyone who watched the 2004 Washington state governor’s race could tell you. Continue Reading »

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Nov 22 2014

A marker for Labrador?

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Idaho

How many Idahoans watched President Obama’s speech Thursday about changes in the federal response to immigrants who got here against the law? Was Representative Raul Labrador among them – and did it spark any activist thoughts in his own mind?

Idaho generally has some particular reason to pay attention. A study by the Pew Research Center released last week showed that Idaho is one of just seven states where unauthorized immigration rose between 2009 and 2012. The population declined in 14 states – twice as many. Maybe more notable: Idaho and Nebraska were the only two western states where that segment of the population increased during those years; it fell in Oregon, Nevada, California and others.

Immigration has become so hot an issue that emotions often drown out facts. A lot of the responses to the Obama talk, pro and con, was suffused with emotion. The reaction from Idaho’s politicians was, as you might expect, harshly negative against Obama’s outline. Representative Mike Simpson said Obama’s actions “have the potential to throw us into a Constitutional Crisis,” though he also said “We cannot shut down the government, impeach the President, or allow this issue to impede progress on deficit reduction, tax reform, or other critical priorities for the American people.” Congressional Republicans will have a lot to talk about in the next few days and weeks.

Labrador does have some expertise in the subject, having worked as an immigration attorney in his private practice. After Obama’s speech he declared, “this is illegal,” and suggested in essence that the Senate reject over the next two years any appointments, budget requests or anything else coming its way from the White House.

The Obama policy may activate people on the other side as well, though. Recent national polling on the matter has been split on Obama taking a unilateral action on the subject. But many in the Latino community will be watching closely what happens next, and Republicans who hope to attract many of their votes in 2016 will have to approach the subject with some caution and diplomacy.

When Labrador went to Congress, one of his assets was strong personal knowledge of how the immigration system works (or fails to), the presumption being that he might be in a position to help move things ahead. So far – and not, certainly, to pile all this on him – a measure has passed the Senate, but efforts to come up with a compromise measure in the House have collapsed. Labrador’s stands on the subject, and his shifts in alliances on it, have been far from clear. Continue Reading »

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Nov 15 2014

There are multitudes

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Idaho

When market analysts such as politicians need insight into how people really view something, they often convene a focus group.

Last week I sought out something like that, consisting of party-line Republican Idaho voters. The 19 responses were enough (together with a collection of comments from a range of other sources) to tell me this much: The 220,000 or more (more in a presidential year) who vote down-the-line Republican in Idaho arrive at that result not by any one, but in variety of ways.

First, thanks to all who responded. I’ll honor the requests for anonymity from a number of respondents; I will say that none of them were familiar to me or are well-known public figures. Eight of the 19 didn’t specifically meet the terms of the request: They broke from the Republican ticket once or twice, mostly in the superintendent of public instruction race, but also for governor and secretary of state. The explanations for the vote were usually specific, several about as lengthy as this column.

Detail wasn’t absent from all down-the-line respondents. One said of GOP superintendent candidate Sherri Ybarra: “much more complete in the debates and showed her concern about educating the WHOLE child. She understands the use of money and how best to use in to get the most out of what she is given. She will not just have her hand out. She will fit in with the Republican Legislators and the land board.” Of Lawerence Denny for secretary of state: “This was a tough one for me. Reason, experience and land board.” Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter: “I’ve been disappointed at times. Idaho taking on the Federal mandated Insurance exchange for one. Balukoff ran a one issue race on more money for education without answers.”

Some respondents clearly had followed the campaigns, but there seemed a gap: Was it just coincidence that all their choices went to one party?

Most of the all-R voters, however, focused on the nature of the parties.

One seemed to focus on President Obama: “Considering the Republican tide that swept the country on Nov 4, with Obama stating he wasn’t on the ballot but his policies were; a vote for any Democrat was a vote for Obama’s policies. Idaho voters priorities were in step with the country and were clearly shown. Stop Obama’s policies!!!” Continue Reading »

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Nov 08 2014

The power of the R (in Idaho)

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Idaho

Don’t say there was no difference in the received vote between Republican candidates who were noncontroversial and those drowning in negatives in the just-ended campaign. Yes, they all alike won, but the counts varied and even give us some measure of controversial-ness.

Atop the ticket, Senator Jim Risch, whose re-election campaign didn’t draw massive public attention, despite strenuous efforts from his opponent, won about 285,000 votes. (I’m rounding off for simplicity.) Fellow Republicans Lawerence Denney for secretary of state won about 44,000 less, C.L. “Butch” Otter for governor about 50,000 less, and Sherri Ybarra for superintendent of public instruction about 68,000 less (barely avoiding a loss). You likely remember, or can Google, the many issues surrounding them.

This means about 40,000 to 60,000 Republicans did split off from an otherwise Republican ballot when presented with compelling arguments to do so. That’s significant, and I’ll return to them on another occasion. But an operating majority of voters, somewhere around 220,000 of them, were by comparison impervious to the arguments that peeled off other Republicans.

That point is being made not just from the left. Kent Marmon, a sometimes Republican candidate in Canyon County who often critiques the Idaho Republican establishment from the right, said on a Facebook post, “As I watched the election results unfold last night, I couldn’t help but think that if Barack Obama moved to Idaho, joined the Republican Party, and ran for office as a Republican…. he could get elected. Issues apparently don’t matter. Neither does anything else.”

Also on Facebook, a woman from Nampa (a Democrat) sent an open request to Republican friends: “Please name three (3) reasons you voted for Sherri Ybarra. I’m not being snarky. I genuinely want to know why you would pick Ms. Ybarra over Ms. [Jana] Jones. Serious answers only, please.”

She got about 90 replies, but from down the line Republicans . . . nothing.

Of the many apparently non-Republican respondents, a few said the election was “rigged,” which it was not, and others thought gerrymandering was involved, which it could not have been. One said, “I cannot find a Republican that will admit to voting for her.” But, evidently, a whole lot of them did.

Another: “My guess is that people who voted for her didn’t even know what she was running for. They saw the “R” beside her name and colored the circle in. I don’t think you will find an educated Republican who did vote for her.” And: “Based on what I heard said: 1) she’s Republican. 2) there is a black man in the White House (who wants to take my guns). 3) she’s ‘good looking’.”

A variation: “It simply was the ‘obama/bogeyman syndrome’ that many in Idaho believe. It started with the IACI labeling Mr. [A.J.] Balukoff as a “liberal” and using that simplistic tactic in all the races. Ibarra with “D” in front of her name would have gotten less than 10% of the vote (taking into account of really stupid voters who pay absolutely no attention to who their voting for) To hear some of the people on fb and KIDO and KBOI, you would think that AJ was the “antichrist” because of the lies spread about him.”

How close to the truth did these latter comments come? Good question. They’re guesswork from outsiders speculating about the opposition camp.

One writer said she had a number of Tea Party friends who “are very vocal on their own feed. This thread may not feel safe for them. But holy jelly donut – stand up for what you believe in, otherwise it’s just a herd of lemmings talking to themselves in the mirror.”

So I’ll pitch a request here, to party-line Republican voters (others, please hold off): Send me a note, at the email address below, noting the main reason or two why you voted for Ybarra, Denney and Otter. Call it a public service. Idaho will be better off if the whole of the state has a clearer idea why its next round of elected leadership was chosen, and few majority voters are clearly explaining that now.

I’ll follow up next week.

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Nov 01 2014

An election night agenda

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Idaho

The big national story Tuesday night will have to do with control of the U.S. Senate, which as this is written is a very close call.

In Idaho, control of the legislature will not be much of a point of suspense. But there’ll be plenty to watch elsewhere.

Start with the voter turnout; information about that should be released early. High turnout tends to mark enthusiasm for something; low turn out, a turning off. Very early indicators from early-voting states around the country have been mixed (North Carolina running high, Nevada running low). The turnout level may give some meaning to the wins and losses in its wake. What are voters thinking?

Turnout could also affect how some of the Idaho races settle, too.

Attention always goes first to the top of the ballot, but in most Idaho races there’s not a lot of basis – at least in considering polling and other normal indicators – for expecting close contests. If the early results for congressional and governor races do show close numbers across a range of counties, expect a long night, but be wary of betting on that happening. Do the Republicans running for Congress reach landslides (which I define as 60 percent of the vote or better), as they typically have in the past, or does a generic dissatisfaction hit, making the races closer?

The governor’s race will get central attention, of course, after a number of tea-leaf readers have begun to conclude it’s close after all. How close?

The real interest more likely ought to go to places on the Idaho ballot that generally get little attention, those statewide offices like secretary of state, state treasurer and superintendent of public instruction, all of which have seen lively campaigns this year.

There’s not been a lot of polling on these races, either (when it’s really infrequent you get no trend lines or basis for comparison), and it’s hard to know how much the campaign messages have been sinking in. Many Idaho voters probably couldn’t tell you very accurately what the state secretary, treasurer and superintendent each do, and therefore how to assess the importance of the campaign arguments. Did some of those messages actually connect? Are voters willing to look beyond party labels, which is what many typically seem to use as a guide to voting?

That in fact may be another thing to watch for: Any sign of split-ticket voting, which has been in decline in Idaho (as in many other places) for a couple of generations now. Continue Reading »

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Oct 25 2014

Has the ground changed?

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Idaho

Think for a moment of political news, background and impressions, falling from the skies upon the electorate, like rain. It may be the rain that soaks you and makes you wet and miserable or it may be the rain causing flowers to bloom and crops to grow. Depends on your perspective.

A good deal of such rain has fallen in Idaho’s campaign seasons this year. From the batch of scandal-like problems associated with Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter (private prison, broadband for schools and more), to the financial issues attached to Treasurer Ron Crane, to the personal assessments of Secretary of State candidate Lawerence Denney, to the many missteps of Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Sherri Ybarra, and others too, there’s been a lot, especially of the negative kind. Republican candidates, who are the kind that almost always, in the last 20 years, have emerged winners in the November elections, have provided a lot of it.

This rain of bad headlines, gaffes, missteps and so on has been seized on by people watching Idaho’s elections, and with reason. Such problems have, in years past, derailed any number of Idaho candidates, and some of the complaints and criticisms have been serious enough to go to the heart of the jobs these people are seeking.

A meaningful political analysis has to go one step further, though. Even flood-level amounts of rain won’t make the crops grow or the flowers bloom if it does not fall on receptive soil. Rain falling on concrete simply runs off, at least in the short term.

Idaho’s electorate (to carry the analogy one uneasy step further) used to be gently rototilled, open to new information and ideas and news, willing to adjust its views. It has become less so in the last couple of decades – much more hard-packed, less receptive, than it used to be.

People looking for changes in, say, the governor’s race, need to look not just at the rain but at something that would churn the hard-packed soil, to make it more receptive to changes in the environment.

Maybe it’s there and just not very visible, but so far I’m not seeing much change on the ground. Nor am I picking up many indicators of it.

To explain this a little further, here’s a small plot of Idaho political ground where conditions may be more receptive: The race for Superintendent of Public Instruction. One factor is the many problems Republican Ybarra has faced, and the steady campaign of Democrat Jana Jones. Continue Reading »

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Oct 18 2014

No difference at all

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Idaho

A reader points out that Idaho voters next month will decide whether to pass an amendment to the state constitution, and “The only info I have is in the “Idaho Voters’ Pamphlet” and it’s not enough”: She requests some guidance.

Okay: On this one, you can feel comfortable throwing a dart blindfolded at your ballot. Whether you pass it or fail it, it will make no difference whatsoever, not to Idaho voters, their government, or anything else. When I read that one of its main floor backers, Senator Curt McKenzie of Nampa, said it was among most significant pieces of legislation he’d dealt with, I hoped that his legislative career has amounted to more than that.

What House Joint Resolution 2, which passed both chambers with not a single vote opposed, does say is that the Legislature can authorize and holds final effective approval power over all agency rules and regulations. That would be significant if the legislature already had not been doing that. Legislatures take varying roles in dealing with agency regulations, but the Idaho Legislature has been overseeing and accepting and rejecting rules for decades – to my knowledge at least since the 70s, and probably long before that.

For many years, the legislature gave the rules a quick look, maybe throwing out two or three controversial ones in a normal session. Since the mid-90s, it has been applying a microscope to them, spending the first quarter or so of each session hunkered down over not legislation but administrative rules to decide whether they will stay there, or should be kicked out, or amended. Some studies have concluded that the Idaho Legislature has, for a couple of decades, had more power over and more closely reviewed the rules than any other legislature in the country.

So what is the new proposed amendment intended to accomplish? Basically, to allow the system Idaho has had for a couple of decades to stay in place.

Is there any reason to think it won’t? Legislative backers point out a couple of challenges to legislative rule approval at the Idaho Supreme Court; but the court has each time upheld the legislature. That’s too much locked-in precedent for such a change to happen easily.

But even if it did, the practical difference would be, as a lawyer would say, de minimis. Administrative rules can be set up only within the terms of state law, so the legislature sets the parameters to start with. If the rules color outside the lines, they can be challenged and thrown out in court. Legislators can also change state law as they please to rein in regulatory ideas they don’t like or impose those they do; there’s not a lot of limit on how specific law can be. (Laws can be held unconstitutional for vagueness but generally not for specificity.) Legislators also hold the power of the purse, and can (and often do) include statements specifically describing what money cannot be used for, or must be used for – which amounts to sweeping control of what an agency does. A legislator might argue that a governor can veto a bill, even a budget bill; but two-thirds of the legislature can override vetoes. Continue Reading »

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Oct 18 2014

On the front pages

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news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Time capsule found in old statute (Boise Statesman)
Police observing rail crossings (Boise Statesman)
IF city officials start strategic planning (IF Post Register)
Lewiston, Orchards Sewer, hit impasse in talks (Lewiston Tribune)
Washington initiative on class size has costs (Lewiston Tribune)
Palouse city has mass of public record requests (Moscow News)
UI Dean Bruce Pitman departing (Moscow News)
Balukoff school backer never voted in Idaho (Idaho Press Tribune)
Library Square tenants evaluate options (Idaho Press Tribune)
New ads up in race for governor (TF Times News)
Options considers to cut auto-wildlife collisions (TF Times News)

New UO fundraise goal set at $2b (Eugene Register Guard)
Debate rages on driver license ballot issue (Eugene Register Guard)
State student endowman plan on ballot (Eugene Register Guard)
Voters asked for $36 million for KF high school (KF Herald & News)
Judge says cities can bar medical pot retailing (KF Herald & News)
Circuit judge contest renews at Jackson Co (Medford Tribune)
Reviewing Jackson Co commission 1 candidates (Medford Tribune)
On future of Umatilla-area school service district (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Senator Hansell blasts Kitzhaber on water spills (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Pot dispensary access becoming easier in OR (Portland Oregonian)
Ferrioli blasts negative campaign ads (Salem Statesman Journal)

Kilmer heavily outspends opponent (Bremerton Sun)
Bainbridge Island gets new park (Bremerton Sun)
King home values rise, and so do taxes (Seattle Times)
Looking at frequent turnover in neighborhoods (Seattle Times)
Examining reduced-class-size initiative (Spokane Spokesman)
Spokane council member partner in pot business (Spokane Spokesman)
New museum planned for Point Ruston (Tacoma News Tribune)
Vancouver school board may expand meeting notice (Vancouver Columbian)
Controversial prayer breakfast with Boykin held (Vancouver Columbian)
Looking at the problem of hoarders (Yakima Herald Republic)
Yakima schools may see athletic upgrades (Yakima Herald Republic)

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Oct 11 2014

The state says, and the court says

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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision on Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban is one of those court decisions worth the read – you can find a copy at www.ridenbaugh.com/14-35420 opinion.pdf. It’s worth doing for understanding exactly what the state is arguing, and what the court said in response.

Part of it is a technical analysis relating to the Nevada part of the case, and not relevant to Idaho. But read the rest and you come away with a sense of just how thin Idaho’s legal ground here is.

The Idaho argument has the advantage of proceeding in the wake of decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, paring the legal case down to the core. The main dispute: Whether there exists a clear and strong rationale for the Idaho rule (which includes both constitutional provisions and state law) – something beyond simply disliking the idea of gay marriage. Or declaring gay couples as second-class, which as the court said (following up on Supreme Court decisions) it cannot legally do.

The state argued, naturally, that there was. It said children raised in opposite-sex marriages would be better off. But the court found no specific evidence of that. The circuit also noted Idaho hasn’t blocked gay couples from adopting children.

“Idaho focuses on another aspect of the procreative channeling claim,” it added. “Because opposite-sex couples can accidentally conceive (and women may choose not to terminate unplanned pregnancies), so the argument goes, marriage is important because it serves to bind such couples together and to their children. This makes some sense. Defendants’ argument runs off the rails, however, when they suggest that marriage’s stabilizing and unifying force is unnecessary for same-sex couples, because they always choose to conceive or adopt a child. As they themselves acknowledge, marriage not only brings a couple together at the initial moment of union; it helps to keep them together, ‘from [that] day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.’ Raising children is hard; marriage supports same-sex couples in parenting their children, just as it does opposite-sex couples.”

And: “Just as ‘it would demean a married couple were it to be said marriage is simply about the right to have sexual intercourse,’ Lawrence, 539 U.S. at 567, it demeans married couples—especially those who are childless—to say that marriage is simply about the capacity to procreate.” Continue Reading »

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Oct 04 2014

Legislature under the radar

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Idaho

All 105 Idaho state legislative seats are up for election next month, and if that was all you knew, you might assume wholesale change at next year’s session. The legislature isn’t all that popular, right?

There will be, of course, few changes. Many seats are unchallenged, or barely challenged. Even by the modest standards of recent elections, we’ll see few Idaho legislative races even of much interest, let alone competitive. Surprises happen, and every election features a few. But a handful (all for House seats, none in the Senate) are worth your attention as the campaign rounds the last turn.

Just one district has as many as two of these notable races: District 5, for both of its House seats. This is a rare legislative district where the House delegation is split. Republican Cindy Agidius and Democrat Shirley Ringo, both of Moscow, hold those seats. Ringo’s is open, with her run for the U.S. House instead, while Agidius is running for re-election.

This Latah-Benewah area is a politically marginal district. Moscow provides one of the stronger Democratic bases in Idaho, and Democratic votes can emerge from the Coeur d’Alene Reservation in Benewah, but the rest of the counties run Republican. Substantial campaigns here have to be taken seriously, and both seats are seriously contested. Democrat Paulette Jordan, who lost to Agidius by only 123 votes in 2012, is back again, working hard and apparently outspending the incumbent. The open seat race, between Republican Caroline Nilsson Troy of Genesee and Democrat Gary Osborn of Troy (with independent David Suswal of Deary in the mix), also has a competitive feel.

The single most significant legislative race in Idaho surely is for House A in the west Boise District 15, where third-time legislative candidate Democrat Steve Berch is opposing incumbent Lynn Luker. You could point out that Berch has lost twice before and Luker is a well-established four-term incumbent Republican, liked in his party, in a district that has elected only Republicans for two decades.

But Berch earlier this year won a seat on the Boise Auditorium District board, which strengthens his hand, and he is a relentless campaigner building on a strong campaign effort two years ago. His particular skills, and intensity, may work better aimed at an incumbent; and Luker has become more controversial recently with his introduction of bills he describes as promoting religious freedom. All this is important because District 15 may be on the cusp of becoming a purple district, located as it is next door to the string of deepening blue Boise districts. If Berch wins, the door could be kicked open. Continue Reading »

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Sep 27 2014

Judge in the middle

Published by under Idaho,Idaho column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

In the mid-70s my reporting included the courts at Canyon County, overseen at the time by three district judges. Everyone I knew who was familiar with the court system – lawyers, clerks, journalists, parties to cases and others – shorthanded the three judges in the same way.

All were professional, capable judges. But: One was the judge you wanted if you were the defendant. Another was the one you wanted if you were a victim or a prosecutor; in relative terms, he was the hangin’ judge. And then there was the one in the middle, the one the consensus figured most likely to meet most people’s idea of fairness most often. That was District Judge Edward Lodge.

Judges matter. Last week Lodge, now a federal district judge, said that next summer he plans to take senior status – a sort of semi-retirement – and time seems right for some reflection on that.

By the time I started watching him on the bench, Lodge was a veteran already, appointed in 1965 at the age of 31; he is said to still hold the record for youngest district judge in Idaho. He has had his share of high-profile cases (the Claude Dallas murder case, for one), but in his nearly half-century on the bench, he never has become especially controversial and often has drawn praise. He has been a federal district judge since 1989 – about a quarter-century.

The work of judges isn’t as easily summarized as that of, say, legislators or members of congress, and most people not associated with the courts may have little way to figure which are better and which are less so. But it is crucial work. The decisions of federal judges like Lodge, and Idaho’s current senior federal judge, Lynn Winmill, from time to time have as much impact as legislation, and can change the direction of legislation. Federal judges like Lodge, after all, have been the people making decisions on such hot buttons as Obamacare and same-sex marriage.

Lodge’s move to senior status is something a number of people in the Idaho legal system have wanted for some years, not as a criticism of Lodge but because it would open a slot for a new federal judge. The need has been great for some time; this column addressed the subject late last year. Idaho has fewer federal judges per capita than a number of other states (Wyoming, for one example, is flush with federal judges by comparison). The docket is almost overwhelming at times. Continue Reading »

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Sep 20 2014

Who gives, who gets

Published by under Idaho,Idaho column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

This is a call to do your own political investigations.

If you have an Internet connection, you can do it from where you are right now.

In the next few weeks you’ll see more news stories about campaign finance contributions and spending, since reporting deadlines are coming up. For Idaho state races, campaign finance reports – the “pre-general” – will be due at the Secretary of State’s office on October 10. (The next after that will be due October 28.) For federal, congressional, races, the next big one, the quarterly report, will be due at the Federal Election Commission on October 15. Spend a little time looking these over, and you can track the money trail yourself .

I spend some time each cycle checking out this information. You can too.

The secretary of state’s web site has an old-fashioned look, but the information is there and easy to get. Go to http://www.sos.idaho.gov/elect/finance.htm, which is about statewide constitutional offices, legislature and political action committees (and spending on ballot issues too). The information base here really is massive, covering elections back to 2000. Lobbyist reporting information is available through this page too.

The state database, allowing for name lookups and the like, is only available through 2012. But scanned copies of the reports filed by the candidates are available right away; click on the “2014” link. Following links in the next couple of pages takes you to pdf scanned copies of candidate reports. At present, the most recent are the “post-primary” reports (through May); the October 10 reports, which will bring the money picture up to present, should be available before a month from now.

Pull a candidate’s scanned report and you get what looks a little like a tax form, with spaces filled in with numbers, names and, often, addresses. You’ll see the amounts raised and spent (and still in the bank), and individual donors and recipients. In the most recent report for Otter for Governor, for example, you find donor number one was Paul Anderson of Potlatch, who donated $100; he was followed by CenturyLink Idaho PAC at $5,000, and on down through the pages. Some of the names are familiar, some not, but all are linked to the campaign with cash.

The official place for federal – congressional this year, but including presidential – campaign reports is the Federal Election Commission, through their “disclosure portal” at http://www.fec.gov/pindex.shtml. Continue Reading »

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Video of a December 19 demonstration by people at Moscow, protesting safety problems on US 95 in the area.

 

 
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Our acclaimed weekly e-pubs: 35-45 pages Monday mornings getting you on top of your state. Discounts for multiple subscriptions. Samples available. Contact us by email or by phone at (208)484-0460.

 

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Many critics said it could not be done - and it often almost came undone. Now the Snake River Basin Adjudication is done, and that improbable story is told here by three dozen of the people most centrally involved with it - judges, attorneys, legislators, engineers, water managers, water users and others in the room when the decisions were made.
Through the Waters: An Oral History of the Snake River Basin Adjudication. edited by the Idaho State Bar Water Law Section and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 300 pages. Softcover. $16.95.
See the THROUGH THE WATERS page.


 
Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh died on July 20, 2014; he was widely praised for steady leadership in difficult years. In this book, writer Scott Jorgensen talks with Atiyeh, traces his background and recounts some of what he had to say – and others said about him. “He was a good man ... In many ways, Vic Atiyeh was more than a man – he was a link to a past that I could barely even imagine.”
Conversations with Atiyeh. by W. Scott Jorgensen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 140 pages. Softcover. $14.95.
The CONVERSATIONS WITH ATIYEH page.

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"Salvation through public service and the purging of awful sights seen during 1500 Vietnam War helicopter rescue missions before an untimely death, as told by a devoted brother, leaves a reader pondering life's unfairness. A haunting read." Chris Carlson, Medimont Reflections. ". . . a vivid picture of his brother Jerry’s time as a Medivac pilot in Vietnam and contrasts it with the reality of the political system . . . through the lens of a blue-collar, working man made good." Mike Kennedy.
One Flaming Hour: A memoir of Jerry Blackbird. by Mike Blackbird; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 220 pages. Softcover. $15.95.
See the ONE FLAMING HOUR page.


 
Back in Print! Frank Church was one of the leading figures in Idaho history, and one of the most important U.S. senators of the last century. From wilderness to Vietnam to investigating the CIA, Church led on a host of difficult issues. This, the one serious biography of Church originally published in 1994, is back in print by Ridenbaugh Press.
Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church. LeRoy Ashby and Rod Gramer; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 800 pages. Softcover. $24.95.
See the FIGHTING THE ODDS page.


 
JOURNEY WEST

by Stephen Hartgen
The personal story of the well-known editor, publisher and state legislator's travel west from Maine to Idaho. A well-written account for anyone interested in Idaho, journalism or politics.
JOURNEY WEST: A memoir of journalism and politics, by Stephen Hartgen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, here or at Amazon.com (softcover)

 

 

NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
New Editions: The Northwest's Newspapers as They Were, Are and Will Be. Steve Bagwell and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 324 pages. Softcover. (e-book ahead). $16.95.
See the NEW EDITIONS page.

How many copies?

 
THE OREGON POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

The Field Guide is the reference for the year on Oregon politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Compiled by a long-time Northwest political writer and a Salem Statesman-Journal political reporter.
OREGON POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Hannah Hoffman; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
THE IDAHO POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase is the reference for the year on Idaho Politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Written by two of Idaho's most veteran politcal observers.
IDAHO POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
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WITHOUT COMPROMISE is the story of the Idaho State Police, from barely-functioning motor vehicles and hardly-there roads to computer and biotechnology. Kelly Kast has spent years researching the history and interviewing scores of current and former state police, and has emerged with a detailed and engrossing story of Idaho.
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Diamondfield
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The Old West saw few murder trials more spectacular or misunderstood than of "Diamondfield" Jack Davis. After years of brushes with the noose, Davis was pardoned - though many continued to believe him guilty. Max Black has spent years researching the Diamondfield saga and found startling new evidence never before uncovered - including the weapon and one of the bullets involved in the crime, and important documents - and now sets out the definitive story. Here too is Black's story - how he found key elements, presumed lost forever, of a fabulous Old West story.
See the DIAMONDFIELD page for more.
 

Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
See the Medimont Reflections page  
 
Idaho 100 NOW IN KINDLE
 
Idaho 100, about the 100 most influential people ever in Idaho, by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson is now available. This is the book about to become the talk of the state - who really made Idaho the way it is? NOW AN E-BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE for just $2.99. Or, only $15.95 plus shipping.
 

Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at Amazon.com. For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.


 

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    watergates

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    More about this book by Randy Stapilus

    Water rights and water wars: They’re not just a western movie any more. The Water Gates reviews water supplies, uses and rights to use water in all 50 states.242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    intermediary

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    More about this book by Lin Tull Cannell

    At a time when Americans were only exploring what are now western states, William Craig tried to broker peace between native Nez Perces and newcomers from the East. 15 years in the making, this is one of the most dramatic stories of early Northwest history. 242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    Upstream

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    The Snake River Basin Adjudication is one of the largest water adjudications the United States has ever seen, and it may be the most successful. Here's how it happened, from the pages of the SRBA Digest, for 16 years the independent source.

    Paradox Politics

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    After 21 years, a 2nd edition. If you're interested in Idaho politics and never read the original, now's the time. If you've read the original, here's view from now.


    Governing Idaho:
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    by James Weatherby
    and Randy Stapilus
    Caxton Press
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    Outlaw Tales
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    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
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    It Happened in Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
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    Camping Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here